St. Augustine is an island in the Matanzas River, an estuary connected by St. Augustine Inlet to the Atlantic Ocean.
I divided my trip home into three stages: the first, between St. Augustine and Bluffton SC, took me through the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve and the Fort Caroline National Memorial, on the very same St. John’s River that runs past Marywood Retreat Center in Jacksonville. The Timucua were native people whose first encounter with Europeans was with French who erected Fort Caroline (Cahr-oh-LEEN) at the mouth of the St. John’s, which they called La Rivière de Mai, for its discovery on May 1, 1562.
The Spanish rulers of Florida felt less friendly to the French and in September 1565 killed several hundred French settlers at the fort. Three years later, the French and Timucuan natives killed 200 Spanish soldiers and recaptured the fort. Matanzas is Spanish for slaughters.
Bluffton, 200 miles north of St. Augustine, where I stayed at an AirBNB, is an artificial town with a very expensive breakfast place. My host recommended a nice place to walk, at Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge.
A hundred sixty miles north of Bluffton is Lake City, where I stayed at another AirBNB. Lake City is a strange little town whose web site describes it as “A classic American small town…steeped in history, rich in culture and diversity, and alive with progress.” I was struck more that it was not only an apparent food desert, but a fast-food desert. I drove for miles into and out of town without seeing even a McDonald’s where I could get a cup of coffee.
My search for coffee on my last morning on the road took me to Lula’s, a pleasant coffee shop with some okay baked goods. I asked the barista exactly where we were. She said, “Florence.” Kind of where I’d started, I went the rest of the way home.